How the changes to Canadian Citizenship Act affect you?
The controversial Bill C-24, which is also cited as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, has received Royal Assent on June 19, 2014 and is now law. On one hand, this Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act makes some positive changes. For example, it resolves the situation of “lost” Canadians. For those were born before the first Citizenship Act in 1947 and did not obtain citizenship would now be granted Canadian citizenship under the new changes. Further, there are other measures which make citizenship more accessible to those who have served in the armed forces or other federal public administration. On the other hand, the new laws do make Canadian citizenship “more difficult to obtain and easier to lose”, especially for those naturalized citizens.
Here are some highlights to the new laws:
- Changes to Residence RequirementUnder the new laws, to obtain the citizenship, a permanent resident has to be physically present in Canada for a total of four years (1,095 days) out of six years immediately before the date of application. On top of that, there is a new requirement that such permanent resident has to be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days during each of four calendar years. No doubt, this will increase the waiting time to obtain citizenship and will make it more complicated in scrutinizing by calendar years and number of days absent.Another significant change is that the right of counting half of the time a person spent when he or she was a non-permanent resident is now eliminated under the new laws. This measure will immediately affect those who have spent years working in Canada on the work permit or those who are legally staying in Canada but not as a permanent resident.
- Intention to ResidePrior to the changes, there is no such intent to reside provision. Under the new laws, there is a requirement for the person applying for citizenship has intent, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada. Problem here is that it makes “an intention to reside” a condition of naturalization. It will definitely discourage those naturalized citizen to take up employment or residence elsewhere for the fear of losing their Canadian citizenship. This is not a risk faced by citizens who obtain citizenship by birth.
- Changes to Language and Knowledge RequirementUnder the new laws, everyone who is aged 14 to 65 applying for citizenship has to prove that he or she has an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada as well as to demonstrate in one of the official languages of Canada that he or she has an adequate knowledge of Canada. To do so, a written test will be required. Whilst it is agreeable that some knowledge of an official language is expected to ensure an individual can effectively integrate into our society, for those who do not possess the necessary language skills to pass a written test will inevitably find that citizenship inaccessible.
- Revocation of Citizenship due to ConvictionsThis provision is totally new to the existing act. Under the new laws, if one is convicted of an offence of treason, spying, terrorism or other likewise national security offence either inside or outside of Canada, his or her citizenship could be revoked. This new law will apply to all Canadians regardless of how they obtained their citizenship. One point to note is that this new law does restrict its application to those who have another nationality, for example, through their parents. It also imposes the burden of proof on that individual to show on a balance of probabilities that he or she does not have another nationality. In other words, the onus of proof is rested on the individual to prove that he or she does not have another nationality to avoid potential statelessness. If one has another nationality, his or her Canadian citizenship is subject to revocation when he or she is convicted of a national security offence. Once his or her Canadian citizen is revoked, he or she will be considered as foreign national and subject to be deported.
The new laws, as expected, are now facing constitutional challenges in Court. One argument is that the Parliament reached beyond its jurisdiction in passing these new provisions contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Further argument, which also forms grounds for heated discussion, is that the new laws create secondary class of Canadian citizens. This Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act might affect you one way or the other. If you have any question or want to know more about the new changes, please speak to one of the immigration lawyers at PKF Lawyers.
Elaine Chan is a commercial and residential real estates, commercial/corporate and immigration lawyer at PKF Lawyers, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In addition to her multinational experiences in practising laws, Elaine has unique expertise in areas relating to Permanent Resident Application and Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program.